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News 10 Oct 17

Rama Hires Kosovo Ministers to Boost Albania’s Status

Albania's Edi Rama has given four of the 33 new vice-ministerial posts in his government to Kosovars, in what some experts call a move to reinforce his regional ambitions.

Fatjona Mejdini
BIRN
Tirana
Albanian PM Edi Rama (right) and his Kosovo counterpart Ramush Haradinaj during a meeting in Tirana. Photo: kryeministria.al

Albania's Prime Minister, Edi Rama, has appointed four ministers who come from Kosovo, sending a "political message" about his ambitions to play a wider role in the region, experts said.

On Saturday, Rama presented 33 government vice ministers, four of whom are professionals from Kosovo and little known in Albania.

Hajrulla Ceku, the new vice minister of Tourism and Environment was before a program coordinator in a Kosovo NGO engaged in environmental and urban planning issues.

Besa Shahini, the new vice minister of Education, Sports and Youth, has a long career as an independent public policy analyst and is also the founder of Education Plenum, a think tank delivering research and analysis about education.

Valbona Shujaku, the new vice minister of Culture, had been directing the culture department in the Kosovo capital, Pristina.

Ilirjana Bajraktari, the vice minister for Health and Social Protection, has a Doctorate in Medical Sciences and long experience in working with international health organisations.

Afrim Krasniqi, director of the Albanian Institute for Political Studies, a think tank, told BIRN that the selection sent a clear message.

"Rama wants to create a precedent and give the impression that he is different from the other PMs in Tirana and Pristina and is going to play a regional role," he said.

Astrit Gashi, director of the Blic news website in Kosovo, believes the same, emphasising that the move serves Rama strategy of acting as a regional leader.

However, he voiced concerns that this ambition could harm the new state of Kosovo. "I fear that Rama is using these selections to reinforce his role as a regional factor at the expense of Kosovo and not really strengthen relationships between the two countries," he said.

However, he also conceded that the appointments of the four junior ministers might aid collaboration between two countries. "If this happens, the action might end up being sincere and effective," Gashi said.

Krasniqi, from the Albanian Institute for Political Studies, said the relationship between the two countries had hitherto lacked a strategy and a concrete vision.

"The governments' relationship ... is without a concrete economic aspect. The relationship is more driven by image and propaganda than by high standards of collaboration," he said.

Arben Cejku, director of the Albanian Centre for Good Governance, told BIRN that he hoped the appointments would be more than symbolic, but would contribute to the relationship between the countries.

"More must be done in order to have real collaboration, especially in fields like education, economy and diplomacy," he said.

He hopes the appointments will contribute also to more joint government meetings, which have turned already into a tradition.

In the past, Kosovo prime ministers and presidents have appointed a number of advisers from Albania. Rama's regional adviser, Shkelzen Maliqi, is a well-known publisher from Pristina.

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